Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vallejo Representatives Make Connections in Philippines

Vallejo Representatives Make Connections in Philippines
By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

It might be the jet lag or it could be the packed itinerary that has Vallejo business and city officials still reeling Monday from a week-long trade mission to the Philippines.
Nearly two dozen Vallejo representatives toured the island nation last week seeking business opportunities, and meeting with Philippine officials up and down the political food chain - from the mayor of Baguio City to the president herself.

The Vallejo Business Alliance and the Vallejo mayor's office made stops including the former Subic Bay Naval Shipyard and the former Clark Air Base. Along the way, their trip was documented in several Philippine newspapers.

Nearly half the group returned to Vallejo on Sunday night with souvenirs, including the key to a Baguio City. The rest of the group was still touring the island nation Monday.

Getting an audience with the leader of a country was unusual and impressive, Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said Monday, noting he was still tired from the trip. He chatted with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the nation's palace the second day of the visit.

"I was very delighted to have that opportunity to speak directly to her," Intintoli said. "We talked about Vallejo and the Filipino presence in the Bay Area and the desire for Filipino investment."

Intintoli, who was joined by Councilmember Hermie Sunga, said they plan to brief the council on their trip at a future meeting.

The goal was to encourage more investment in Vallejo, Intintoli said, citing Sonoma Boulevard's Seafood City shopping center as an example.

Many contacts were made by the Vallejo group, but those exchanges may take time to result in new business, Intintoli said. The immediate effects of the trip may be tourism because of all the publicity, he said.

The Philippine STAR in Manila and the Sun Star in Baguio both ran stories about the delegation, which may bring more tourism to Vallejo, Intintoli said.

"It lauds Vallejo as a travel destination," Intintoli said.

Many people they met, including the president, knew of Vallejo probably because the city has a large population of Filipino Americans, said Rick Wells, president of the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was one group represented on the trip.

"I think it's the first step towards building better relationships between businesses and organizations and officials within the city for long term," Wells said.

Some of the sights the group saw reminded them of Vallejo. For instance, the reuse of the former Subic and Clark military bases are similar to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard renewal, Wells said.

But unlike Mare Island, Subic is much larger and has a shipping port and commercial airport, he said.

"They also have an infrastructure that's existing and they have the ability to use the infrastructure immediately," Wells said. "We don't have that many options here."

The group exchanged many gifts with government officials there, members said.

In Baguio, the delegation gave city leaders a U.S. flag flown over the Capitol by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Vallejo Mayor Intintoli said he received a key to the city, which he plans to put on display in the Sister City room at JFK Library.

Intintoli said he also was given a painting with an agricultural theme from Philippine Speaker of the House José Clavería de Venecia Jr.

The group made many stops and was welcomed by many communities, Intintoli said. On one stop, the group was greeted by school children performing songs and dance, he said.

"They were spectacular," Intintoli said. "No word is enough to describe how well choreographed and how well the music was."

Intintoli, however, said it was harder for him to be prepared for the meetings because of a cold.

"I'm thoroughly exhausted," Intintoli said Monday. "But it was OK. I did OK, I hope."

Groups that sent representatives on the trip also included the Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Solano/Napa counties, the Fil-Am Chamber of Commerce of Solano County and the Sister City Commission.

E-mail Chris G. Denina at cdenina@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6835.

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